The supermarket at Meols Cop retail park will go back before Sefton’s planning committee next week after a decision was deferred earlier this month.
The proposals had been recommended for approval at July’s earlier planning committee, subject to referral to the Secretary of State, at what has for some time been a contentious site. The site has a consent in place with approval granted following a public inquiry in 2016.
However, Sainsbury’s, in line with a cross-market downward shift in store sizes, announced plans last year to scale down the store.
The new proposal, designed by Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson for Sainsbury’s and UBS, is for a store with a net internal sales area of 50,600 sq ft, along a filling station. The current consent allows a 60,000 sq ft store, with the retail floorspace raised on stilts with parking beneath. In either event, the project includes the demolition of three units at Meols Cop.
Sainsbury’s change of plan has reignited opposition to development, with late representations coming forward before the committee meeting earlier this month.
The first of the four came from Asda, which, with the proposed merger between the two retail giants now cancelled, is objecting. Asda occupies a store at Central 12 Shopping Park in Southport and warns of the “impact it would have upon what is already a vulnerable town centre”. Asda cites a vacancy rate that has climbed from 13.1% in 2015 to 18% this year.
Cllr Tony Dawson also made a representation opposing the scheme as a whole. His view is that with Debenham’s departing, the Sainsbury’s store on Lord Street is now the “only draw” of scale in the area, and that smaller traders rely on it as a footfall generator.
The proposals have returned to committee again with a recommendation to approve, although with a clause now drafted in that Sainsbury’s has to commit to keeping its Lord Street store open for a minimum of five years after consent.
Planners also agreed with analysis from Savills, representing Sainsbury’s, that there were no suitable sequential alternative sites for the supermarket, and agreed that “no existing foodstores would be likely to close and local consumer choice and trade would not be diminished because of the proposal”.
The professional team for Sainsbury’s also includes Todd & Ledson as cost consultant, Vectos on transport and Aspect Landscape Planning, Sefton is advised by Nexus.
Sefton Council is set to make a decision on the plans on 31 July.